Travel Advice for When the Weather Is Bad

by Chris on May 11, 2011

What to you do when the weather turns bad on vacation? Some travel advice and tips.

Travel Advice: When you have bad weather on vacation

This article previously appeared on

My sister called me from her vacation, disgruntled. She had planned a long weekend in Gettysburg with her boyfriend, a history buff who wanted to walk the battlefields. They hadn’t counted on heavy rains keeping them indoors.

Between the two of us and Google, we came up with an alternative. She salvaged the weekend by having lunch at an historic inn and finding a local winery (yes, Pennsylvania has some). Add in an overnight stay at a haunted B&B, and she had a trip worth talking about.

Bad weather happens, and even the best meteorologists get their predictions wrong. So what should you do when gray skies threaten your vacation?

Gray Cargill found that being flexible improved her rain-soaked trip to Paris. Instead of moping, Cargill hit the museums, adjusting her vacation to the weather’s whims.

“When there was a sunny day, I dropped whatever other plans I had for that day and crammed in all the outdoor activities I could, like walking the Champs Élysées and taking a boat tour of the Seine,” said Cargill, author of the blog SoloFriendly ( ).

Should you find your trip on the brink of a washout, here are a few tips so you still enjoy your time off:

Have a backup plan. Cargill creates a planning document for each trip, where she draws up a list of “A” must-do activities, a B list of things she’ll do if she has time, and a “save it for a rainy day” list. “If it rains and being outdoors wouldn’t be much fun, I just swap out one,” said Cargill.

You don’t have to be as organized as Cargill. But having a few indoor alternatives in your back pocket can prevent “what do we do now” malaise.

Reduce the surprise factor. It goes without saying that you should research a destination’s weather patterns before you book. It will rain during the rainy season; there may be a hurricane during hurricane season. Local message boards will tell you if a region is having a cold spell or wilting heat. Plan accordingly.


Make friends with locals. When she rented a traditional trullo in Alberobello, a UNESCO World Heritage-listed city in Italy’s Apulia region, travel writer Lara Dunston planned bike rides along country roads, hikes, and picnics in olive groves, and daily swims in her pool. Rain left her stranded at the end of a dirt road, without a rental car.

Luckily, her property manager stepped in, with deliveries of farm-fresh produce — “sundried tomatoes which she hung up in our kitchen, a colossal bag of flour, a big bottle of her own olive oil” — and cooking lessons. “It reinforced my belief that there is sunshine behind every cloud,” said Dunston, author of GranTourismo (

Even without helpful neighbors, you can soak up local flavor, even if you can’t go outside. Have breakfast in a diner near the marina in a seaside community, for example, or grab a coffee in a hip downtown neighborhood.

Think about why you’re on vacation. What’s the real reason you booked your trip? Whether you want to relax, explore a new destination, or create memories with your family, chances are you can accomplish your goal, even if the weather fails to cooperate.

I spent one rainy beach weekend in Spring Lake, New Jersey, playing card games with friends I hadn’t seen in years. While we didn’t get tan, we cooked elaborate meals, swapped stories, and laughed until our sides hurt — and I won some money. It didn’t matter that the sun didn’t show.

Go anyway. Include a rain poncho or small umbrella in your bag, and suck it up.

And that’s what my sister did at Gettysburg. On their last day, she braved the chilly wet weather and bundled up so they could see at least a few historic sites. “In the end, we rallied,” she said.

© 2011 by Wiley Publishing Inc.

| Chris Gray Faust is a veteran journalist, travel expert, social media butterfly - and editrix of this site. Like what you read? Check out her writing, editing and social media services.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris (Amateur Traveler) May 11, 2011 at 8:38 am

As our English brethren say, there is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.


Don Faust May 11, 2011 at 10:59 pm

Chris – very true… I just recently got back from a cruise where one of the ports of call was Dubrovnik, Croatia. Anticipating the weather forecast ahead of time, I packed my REI storm jacket. No amount of rain was going to stop me from seeing the Dubrovnik sights – the rain simply rolled off me.

BTW, I wonder how many English have visited our new home city of Seattle, where you have to brace yourself for 6 months of generally crappy weather.


Caz Makepeace May 11, 2011 at 3:35 pm

Wineries are a sure fire way to have a good time, rain hail or shine!!
Great tips. Weather is the one thing we can’t control so a back up plan is a must


Chris May 11, 2011 at 7:04 pm

@Caz – LOL. I’m a big fan of visiting wineries, as this blog shows! Funky little dive bars are also great places to get out of the rain.


Cailin May 11, 2011 at 4:18 pm

Gray always has such great tips 🙂

Sometimes getting stuck in weather can actually make a trip better! When I was just recently in Iceland the mix of sun, rain, snow, hail all in 10minutes had me experiencing Iceland like a local and when the weather stopped I turned around and saw one of the prettiest rainbows I’ve ever seen! 🙂


Chris May 11, 2011 at 7:03 pm

@Cailin – I’m with you – learning the weather patterns does make you feel like a local! At least that’s what I tell everyone who now visits me in rainy Seattle 🙂


Mark May 12, 2011 at 9:46 am

Great tips! Weather is one thing that you definitely can’t control on a vacation. My family always tries to have a couple of back-up plans just in case.


Camels & Chocolate July 27, 2011 at 8:34 am

I should have read this BEFORE I went on a six-week road trip and ran into heavy rains 39 of the 42 days, ha!


lara dunston November 2, 2011 at 3:29 am

Thanks for including us in this! So many great tips, here!


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